Sunday, February 05, 2006

Twilight of the Yinzers
Each year, the Super Bowl jumps the shark right after Media Day, which is the Tuesday before the game, when reporters looking to make their reputations or reporters who know nothing about football write their stories. But even the foaming hype and rabid stupidity is part of the spectacle, and it's bound to happen as long as the NFL insists on having an off-week between the playoffs and the big game.

(As bad as the off-week is, the 5:25PM Central time kickoff may be worse. In 1997 and 1998, when the Packers were in the game, Super Sunday was the longest day of my life, and even when I have no rooting interest in the game, the day seems strangely elongated. We're driving an hour to a Super Bowl party, and because the game won't be over until almost 9:30, we'll be back way too late for a Sunday night.)

I did learn some interesting stuff amidst the hype this week. For example, Jerome Bettis, the Steelers' running back, destined for the Hall of Fame and expected to retire after this game, is a native of Detroit, site of today's game (indoors, although they're having a blizzard there today). That's not the fact I learned--everybody already knows this because it is the single most-reported fact of 2006. The only people who don't know this are being held incommunicado at Guantanamo Bay. What's interesting is that he was presented with a key to the city this week--an honor which was last extended to Saddam Hussein in 1980.

You couldn't make that stuff up. Bettis got off a great line when somebody pointed it out to him: "I think they've changed the locks since then."

I also learned that Pittsburgh has its own dialect. One distinct feature of it is "yinz," which is the Western Pennsylvania equivalent of "y'all." Pittsburghers sometimes call themselves "yinzers," and there's a local literary magazine called the New Yinzer. There are certain similarities between Pittsburgh dialect and our Wisconsin dialect--especially the tendency to slur entire phrases into single words, and to refer to soft drinks such as Pepsi and 7Up as "pop." (Given that sometime Aneurysm contributor Tom Herbst lives in the Pittsburgh area, I expect we may be hearing more about this at some point.)

I have also learned that there are many, many ways to pick the winner of this game. You can go hardcore, and try to decide based on the nuances of Pittsburgh's zone blitz versus Seattle's version of the fabled West Coast offense. You can go simple, as one talk-show host did during the week, saying that Pittsburgh has more good players, ergo, they win. You can take the gambler's perspective (current line: Steelers by 4) and note that since 2000, the Steelers are 33-16-4 against the spread when favored, while the Seahawks are 21-23-2 when they're underdogs over the same period. You can take the psychology factor. Few people are giving Seattle a chance--in fact, a significant number of observers don't seem to know that there's a team other than Pittsburgh in this game. (ESPN, to name one. Within hours of moving their entire operation to Detroit last Monday, they crossed the line from reporting and analysis into acting like preteen girls at an NSync concert.)

Or you can do what I'm doing to pick this game. Pittsburgh has been on a win-or-go-home roll since early December, fueled by emotion, guts, and momentum. Seattle, meanwhile, has gotten used to playing, resting, and then playing again. So I believe the off-week is going to turn what could have been a tremendous game last weekend into one of those championship snoozers we've seen so often in Super Bowls past. And I'm picking against the Steelers for the third straight time. (Sorry, Tom.)

Seattle 27, Pittsburgh 10. If you're not ascared (as the yinzers say), record your own prediction for posterity in the Comment section.

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